Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Perfect Storm of MLS Failure

Small rosters. Brutal scheduling. Multiple tournaments. Player injuries. Any other excuses for New England's and Chivas USA's early exit from the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League?

The undermanned Revolution was on the wrong side of a 4-0 pasting by Trinidad's Joe Public last night at Gillette stadium, to drop the two-legged match by a 6-1 aggregate. Playing without Steve Ralston or Taylor Twellman, New England was lethargic, and for good reason. Said head coach Steve Nicol, "The last three months, we've played every four days. That's a lot of traveling. That's why you get what you get tonight -- a team that has no juice. We might manage a training session in the next two weeks."

Since July 8th, New England has played in five Superliga matches , a pair of US Open Cup matches, and the two matches vs. Joe Public, in addition to six MLS matches, for a total of 15 matches over the last seven weeks. Perhaps in the leagues of Europe the constant play is evened out by a deep, deep bench, but MLS' 28-man rosters are much too thin for such overuse.

Chivas USA also crashed out of the competition last night after drawing Panama's Tauro FC 1-1, for a 3-1 aggregate loss.

So now the Revs and Chivas can relax knowing they won't have to contend with the six CCL group-stage matches that DC and Houston will play during the MLS playoff stretch run. Nothing like a trip to El Salvador when the Western Conference title is up for grabs, but that's what the Dynamo will face on October 28th. Perhaps getting blown out at home by a Caribbean side wasn't such a bad idea after all.

Up for the Cup
DC United will play for even more hardware in tonight's US Open Cup final vs. the USL 1st Division's Charleston Battery at RFK (7:30p, FSC). Despite United's 4 MLS Cup championships, DC has hoisted the Dewar Cup only once, in the club's inaugural season of 1996. The Battery completed the Texas two-step by knocking off Houston and Dallas before beating the soon-to-be MLS Seattle Sounders in the Semis. If Charleston can pull the upset, they'll become only the second USL side to win the knockout tournament in the MLS era, since Rochester won the '99 Cup over the Colorado Rapids.

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